Rep. Jack Metcalf, R-Wash., and animal protection advocates filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government Friday to try to block a Washington state Indian tribe from whaling off the Olympic Coast.
The suit filed in U.S. District Court here against Commerce Secretary William Daley says the whaling planned in or near a national marine sanctuary off the coast of Washington state violates several environmental laws.
“It is shameful that the United States would endorse a proposal which is not only illegal, but which flies in the face of the values, interests and desires of the majority of U.S. citizens,” Metcalf said in a statement Friday.
The Makah Tribe of Neah Bay wants to kill five gray whales a year to re-establish spiritual connections on which their tribal culture is based. They say the hunt is for subsistence and the meat won’t be sold.
A U.S. government delegation attending the International Whaling Commission meeting in Monaco is seeking permission for the Makahs to kill up to 34 gray whales over the next four years.
The delegation led by Will Martin, director of international affairs for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, agrees with the tribe that the whaling is allowed under the 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay.
In addition to the treaty rights, the Makahs have a 1,500-year tradition of hunting whales that stopped in the 1920s because of whale stock depletions, the delegation said.